GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN
Local artist and machinist Doug Brolund tests out one of his refurbished sewing machines, a cast iron Singer boot patcher, at his barn just north of Brandon. The retiree has donated about a dozen old sewing machines to Samaritan House Ministries in the last few months.
Doug Brolund’s hardened calloused hands reflect a lifetime of honest hard work and the dirt, grease and grime are likely permanent stains.
So it’s tough to think the machinist’s hands are capable of creating something as delicate as a wedding dress.
The retired motorcycle and snowmobile repairman can’t stop tinkering though, and he now puts his energy into repairing old sewing machines and sews with his seamstress wife, Anne.
The couple seem to do just about anything from hemming pants, to making shirts, dresses, couch cushions and Halloween costumes.
"Every job is a little different," he said. "For me, I don’t like just sitting around and it gives me something to tinker with."
Stepping into his barn behind his house, a few kilometres north of Brandon, is like walking into a museum of machine.
Fixing needles, cogs, spools, wheels, nuts, springs and screws feeds the appetite of restless fingers.
Dozens of industrial and commercial sewing machines fill part of the shop, many made of cast iron from the 1920s and ’30s, beautiful artifacts of a dying skill.
"In earlier times, every farmer’s wife if they were anybody at all would have a sewing machine," he said. "It wasn’t like they could run down to the store and buy ... a pair of pants the way you can these days.
"Things have changed really fast."
But some of the machines brought back to life have found new homes through Samaritan House Ministries to those people who still have a need and a desire to create and alter clothing.
Samaritan House board member Chris MacDonald said the Latin community has been particularly responsive to the donations.
"Most of them are single-wage earner families working at Maple Leaf, so they don’t have a lot of extra scratch," he said. "Some of them appreciated the opportunity to make clothes for their own kids, and curtains and things like that."
Marla Somersall, executive director of Samaritan House, said anyone is welcome to have one.
For some, it’s a way to save money by making and altering their clothes. For others, Somersall said, it’s a way to make some extra money.
"For some people they actually use them to do cottage crafts and they can make some money for themselves and their families with it," she said. "We had one woman who was willing to do some teaching with people on how to adjust clothes so they could get clothes through our donation program here and learn how to adjust them so they had a proper fit."
Somersall said one person’s rag could be another’s riches.
"We would see them as being a rag and we don’t see any use for them or we don’t like them, they can see something very different and make it into a nice article of clothing."
Brolund continues work and sends off fixed sewing machines periodically to the Samaritan House which the organization continues to hand out when they become available.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 4, 2013